ALMANCIL: If you want your players to shine at a major tournament, keep telling them how good they are even when it is not obvious, according to Germany coach Rudi Voeller.
The players must believe in themselves and have the feeling that they have quality, Voeller said yesterday when asked to explain how you turn a team into the ultimate tournament machine.
They must never lose that feeling, even when they are facing a lot of criticism, added the former World Cup striker.
Look at Michael Ballack. He has been criticised this season but we always knew what we had in him, and Bayern Munich are starting to realise that too.
The Germany playmaker has been under fire for below-par performances at Bayern and has been linked with Barcelona but the Munich club now want him to stay.
Voeller has always stood by Ballack, who paid him back once again with a spirited display in the 1-1 draw with Holland in Germanys opening Euro 2004 game.
The performance of the entire team against a talented Dutch side strongly suggested that Germany, who had worried their fans with dismal shows in the run-up to the tournament, could go a long way.
Just how important it is for Voeller to defend his players became clear during the teams far from impressive qualifying campaign for Euro 2004.
After Germany jeopardised their chances of making it to Portugal with a dismal 0-0 draw against Iceland in September, Voeller lashed out at his critics, calling their analysis of Germanys weaknesses a load of crap.
Voeller, who took over after Germany's embarrassing early exit from Euro 2000, insists he has no other secrets, but there are many reasons why the players and the fans just love him.
The classic poacher in his playing days, Voeller has remained the archetypal man next door with his old-fashioned 1970s haircut and moustache.
Friendly, always approachable and easy to identify with, Voeller was immensely popular even before he restored the soccer-mad nations pride by guiding Germany to the 2002 World Cup final.
With a great team spirit, a glorious past to live up to and Voeller in charge, Germany could stay in Portugal for a while.
If the players believes in themselves and if every single one goes to the limit, we will be hard to beat, Voeller said. Reuters